Use a Lead Sheet to Weed Out Tire Kickers

Although most contractors don't use this simple tool, it's a definite business builder.

Paul Winans has seen contractors waste endless hours chasing jobs that earn them too little, and prospects who never convert into paying clients. He says wasting time, energy and even money on suspects is an all-too-common business problem among construction pros.

Winans, the Owner of Winans Consulting, says the key to weeding out time wasters and tire kickers is the use of a customized lead sheet: a Q&A form that scripts the first call with a potential client. It will work for virtually any construction service provider, whether a builder, remodeler, plumber or architect.

Use a Lead Sheet to Weed Out Tire Kickers

Done right, the questions on the lead sheet should allow anyone on your staff — even those not in sales — to identify ideal, and not-so-ideal, prospects and jobs for your business. It should include a scoring system of 0 to 5 for each question, as well as a minimum total score needed for the staffer to assign the prospect to a salesperson.

Sound like a tool your business might need? Here's more on how to build a customized lead sheet.

If done correctly a lead sheet improves customer prospects

What to ask

Besides obvious queries, such as where the prospect lives and what type of work or project they want done (you should know what types of jobs are a good fit for your company), the lead sheet should help your staff explore emotional and buying-trigger issues. These include questions like how the prospect heard about you and why they want the work done.

Besides helping your staff make an evaluation, the answers can help create bonding and rapport. For example, if the prospect was referred by Mrs. Smith, a past client, your employee could say, "We really enjoyed working for her. How do you know each other?" If the prospect is looking to remodel in order to create living space for an ailing parent or relative, your employee can express empathy for the situation, or perhaps even reference similar projects you've completed for other clients.

Questions should also include what qualities a prospect values most in a contractor. Ideally, you can then correlate their answer to qualities for which your firm is known. For instance, if you and your crews have a reputation for being punctual, you can assign higher scores to prospects who place a premium on punctuality, since they're the ones predisposed to be happy with your service. (To find out what your reputation is in the marketplace, talk with past clients, trade partners and suppliers.)

What to ask during the initial meeting

Ease into the tough questions

Winans suggests not rushing the first call. "The more deliberate you are, the more likely the rest of the selling relationship will go quickly with positive results," he says. In particular, he cautions against pushing for budget details before you understand the emotional reasons they want the work done. Then, rather than bluntly asking "What's your budget?" ask, "What investment have you decided on to improve your living environment?" If they don't have an answer, leave it for the salesperson to cover on a follow-up call or meeting.

Don't forget to ask what other contractors they've called. A lot of contractors are afraid to bring this up. The result? "The contractor gives a free estimate," says Winans, "then acts shocked after hearing that the prospect can't give an answer until they receive the three other estimates they're waiting for."

Ease into the tough questions during the meeting

If, at the end of the initial conversation, you determine that the prospect scores too low, Winans says you should still leave them feeling well served. That could mean referring them to another company that you trust, or to a local trade association. It's a goodwill gesture and it can help enhance your reputation.

Winans says he's seen remarkable turnarounds when businesses first start using the lead sheet. That's because it puts them in charge of the sales process -- often for the first time ever. This frees up wasted hours and brings in the types of jobs that allow the contractor the best opportunity to succeed and profit.

Remarkable turnarounds when businesses use lead sheets